The Short Story in English

By Henry Seidel Canby | Go to book overview

CHAPTER IV
CHAUCER AND GOWER

UP to this point we have been busy with the introduction of the various story types into English, and, even though condensation has been exercised to the dangerpoint, much writing of only historical value has at least had to be called by name. But with the last half of the fourteenth century, and the first signs of maturity in English literary art, the need of excessive reference to unsuccessful narrative vanishes, and one comes with relief and satisfaction to great writers who sum up the excellencies and demerits of their generations. The church exemplum, the Eastern apologue, the GræcoIndian fable, the French fabliauand lai, now given the run of England, continue as the ready tools of native story-tellers. It would be interesting, in this late fourteenth century, to follow the ramifications of type influence, to study Langland with the fabliau,The Pearl with the homily and conte dévot. But as soon as great personalities enter, it is the quality more than the nature of the story which interests us, and the continuity of the old types becomes of less importance than the individual or racial genius which employs an established medium.

In short narrative, at this period, there are two commanding figures whose work is so eminently of, and yet above, their times, that the short stories outside of their

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